Now that’s more like it

Douglas Gulasy

What the heck happened in Oxford?

As I watched Saturday’s football game between Miami and your Kent State Golden Flashes, a similar thought struck me: What was going on?

At first I thought Miami decided to embrace Kent State’s Halloween celebration by dressing up as the Flashes. After all, the RedHawks muffed a punt, turned the ball over six times, missed tackle after tackle and generally just looked – well, awful. That’s the type of performance that led the Flashes to their 1-6 start before Saturday. The only thing missing for Miami was a shanked extra point.

But Miami’s awful performance isn’t what led to Kent State’s 54-21 domination Saturday afternoon. No, the Flashes earned their first Mid-American Conference victory in 391 days by outplaying, outcoaching and thoroughly outclassing the RedHawks.

Yes, Miami turned the ball over six times. But it’s not as if RedHawk players walked up and handed the ball to Flashes players. Kent State forced the turnovers by jumping routes and stripping the ball.

Yes, Miami missed tackles. But teams across the conference have missed tackles against the Flashes, too, because senior quarterback Julian Edelman is pretty freaking hard to get ahold of.

All told, Edelman rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown and added a TD pass. Junior running back Eugene Jarvis showed he has recovered from his high-ankle sprain by rushing for 105 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore Brian Lainhart was all over the place defensively as he recorded 10 tackles, picked off a pass, forced and recovered a fumble and broke up numerous passes. Lainhart looked like a mixture of Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu and Brian Dawkins out there.

Oh yeah, and even struggling kicker Nate Reed booted two field goals and made six of seven extra points. Altogether, the Flashes avoided the turnovers and other mistakes that have cost them this season.

The point is that the Flashes got the victory because they deserved it. The only sad part about it is that it makes you wonder what their record would be if they put together a performance like this every game.

Of the Flashes’ six losses this season, how many of them came about because of avoidable mistakes? The Iowa State loss, probably. The Ohio loss, certainly. The Akron loss, without a doubt.

Yes, a win is a win and a loss is a loss. But the Flashes could very easily be sitting at 5-3 right now instead of at 2-6. They could be in first place in the conference with a 3-1 MAC record instead of tied for last at 1-3.That’s not the case, though. The Flashes are where they are in the standings, and there’s no use in wondering about what might have been. Instead, we should be looking at what can happen now.

I’m not much of an optimist – in fact, Stater sports editor Brock Harrington nicknamed me “Dougie Downer” last year because of my eternal pessimism. But today, I’m wondering what will happen if Kent State plays the rest of the season the way it played yesterday.

The MAC East right now is a crapshoot. Akron is in first place with a 2-2 conference record. Temple’s in second at 2-3. Buffalo is in third at 1-2. And the other four teams in the division have identical 1-3 MAC records.

So what happens if Kent State pulls off what it did in 2006 and wins its next four games after winning at Miami? Is it possible that we could see the Flashes in the MAC Championship Game in Detroit on Dec. 5?

Sure, it’s unlikely. But it’s also possible, especially if the Flashes continue to play up to the level we’ve expected from them the past two seasons. Kent State has pulled off winning streaks in the past under Doug Martin. In 2004, the Flashes closed with four straight wins. In 2006, there was that five-game winning streak. We’ll see what happens this season.

So what happened in Oxford? The Flashes won, that’s what happened – and there could be more W’s in the cards.

Contact assistant sports editor Douglas Gulasy at [email protected].